The holidays are just around the corner, and they’re a fantastic way to help your child develop a strong identity. Traditions, food, music, crafts and stories are all excellent ways to encourage your biracial child to explore the unique history and identity of their family.
I have a vivid memory of going out in the frigid cold to carol with my parents when I was a young girl. It was evening, and so it was very dark at that time of year. I believe it had snowed, and so I proudly wore my boots and recall twinkling lights on the houses in the street. Once we had caroled at a number of houses, we finally went back to the meeting place where church goers and neighbors had gathered. A table filled with Christmas cookies and hot chocolate welcomed us after our outing.
These are the sort of memories that stick for a lifetime and give us a sense of belonging. This is even more important for our biracial kids who may struggle to piece all the parts of their heritage together. Here are some practical ideas for involving your child in your holiday traditions:
Many families pass on traditions from generation to generation. If possible, make a few unique traditions specific to your immediate family. For example, the way you decorate a Christmas tree together, bake cookies, do a craft, etc. In our family, we always have an evening snack outside on the day we hang up lights to enjoy the view. Of course, that works for us because it’s not too cold here in Guatemala!
Other families include rituals in their traditions. For example, some may light candles on an advent wreathe or a menorah. Others do readings throughout the season such as those found in advent calendars. Some traditions require fasting or eating special foods. Whatever your traditions are, be sure to include your children in them so that they can experience the history and greater community they’re a part of. Aside from doing these things within your family, it’s great if you can connect with other families following these traditions as well. It can help your children see they’re a part of something greater than just one family.
Food offers so many possibilities. You can choose to feature foods enjoyed by your culture, or research foods prepared by ancestors for the holidays years ago. I think everyone has a childhood memory around holiday food. Recreating those moments and communicating the rich history they’re a part of to our children helps them gain a sense of belonging.
It’s not only eating food, it’s the baking, cooking and smells that come out of the kitchen. Children should be invited to participate in cooking these meals and goodies that their ancestors have eaten before them. The experience of pushing down on a cookie cutter or stealing a lick of mashed potatoes is one and only.
While cooking together, share memories and stories of your childhood. Invite family members and close friends to join to give these stories greater life and to add in other perspectives. Your child will benefit from the vivid memories created.
I have strong memories of the hymns my parents sung around Christmas time. Now it’s so easy to look up the music online and play it while we enjoy crafting or cooking. I’ve also grown accustomed to the traditional songs played on the radio here in Guatemala and catch myself singing along. I make an effort to ensure that my kids hear both culture’s music throughout the holidays.
Another great way to encourage identity building and an appreciation for all of the cultures your biracial child is a part of is with storytelling. Interview relatives about the traditions they celebrate. Ask grandparents to share stories from their ancestors and the way they celebrated winter holidays.
My Dad and Grandmother always told stories about how they enjoyed an apple or orange for the holidays. Fresh fruit wasn’t available in the winter in the part of the world where they lived, so it was a real treat. Now, I can tell my kids this story, which helps them develop a connection to their past and increase their gratitude.
On the other side of the family, here in Guatemala, my husband talks about how they couldn’t afford many of the traditional foods and treats around Christmas time.
As our children get older, I’ll encourage them to speak with their relatives to learn more about holiday traditions and stories of years past. Some interview questions can also be helpful for older children. They might ask:
– What do you remember most about the holidays as a child?
– How did you celebrate the holidays?
– How did your parents celebrate the holidays when they were children?
– What is your favorite holiday memory?
One of my personal favorites is creating crafts that reflect our family’s values and traditions. We make everything from models to add to our manger scene to ornaments and a centerpiece. In our crafting, we incorporate ideas from both sides of the family, Guatemala and the US.
I am also considering including other cultural holiday aspects to include in our crafts to help teach my kids about even more cultures. The more children can appreciate cultures, their own and others, the more open they are to accepting others as they are. Tolerance is something we must teach our children right along with giving them a strong sense of identity.
These rich activities that involve all of the senses are a great way to help your child grow in their sense of identity as a biracial child. A sense of belonging to all of the cultures in the family is strengthened by participating in activities surrounding the holidays, whatever traditions you follow.
The most important thing to strengthen your child’s identity throughout the holidays is to spend quality time together as a family and encourage discussion together. Talk about what you’re doing, or not doing for the holidays.~ Rachel
So, how will you be celebrating the holidays and building your biracial child’s sense of identity this year?
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